Over the past decade, the Energy industry has taken great strides in improving the physical safety of personnel in our sector. Making the risks clear, measuring key indicators, building awareness, challenging convention and common practice have all been critical to changing our individual and collective behaviours. While we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, it is fair to say that our work environment is now admirably safer and people truly understand the need to continue to build on this.
However, what about risks that have a tradition of being taboo subjects? Risks that are less measurable, risks that manifest in difficult, volatile and at times in unknown ways. How do we look to address these?
Mental health is a category of risk which does not slot into any of our traditional boxes nor measurement mechanisms. It is profound. It is unpredictable. It is a disruptive current that flows beneath otherwise tranquil waters, unassuming, eroding, silent, potentially devastating.
One in five of us will experience it directly during our lifetime and it will certainly affect us all, be it directly or indirectly.
My brother Michael has suffered from schizophrenia for much of his life. It is a mental illness which is more understood than most, yet it remains unpredictable, challenging and heart wrenching. Michael was diagnosed at a relatively early age and his personal response has been tenacious and resilient. Mental illness is a difficult path to navigate even when correctly diagnosed. What of the people who are not?
We all work in an industry where extensive time away from home and long rotations are the norm. With this comes the increased likelihood of psychological distress and mental health risks. Men are particularly prone and are less likely to flag it when it arises. We don’t like to talk about it and don’t believe that it could be me. The truth is that it can be any of us.
"Are You Alright Mate?" is a simple question tailored to encouraging men and women to be more aware, individually and collectively, of our mental health. For International Men’s Day, stop and ask the question to yourself, your colleague, your friend or family member.
You never know what you could find.
It may be reassuring.
It may be concerning.
It might just be life changing.